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What is multi-cloud? 

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Multi-cloud is a term for the use of more than one public cloud service provider for virtual data storage or computing power resources, in addition to other private cloud and on-premises infrastructure. A multi-cloud strategy not only provides more flexibility in which cloud services an enterprise chooses to use, opening up options for hybrid cloud solutions, it also reduces dependence on just one vendor.

Cloud service providers host three types of services: Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). With IaaS, the cloud provider hosts servers, storage, and networking hardware with accompanying services including backup, security, and load balancing. PaaS adds operating systems and middleware to their IaaS offering, and SaaS includes applications so that nothing is hosted on a customer’s site. Cloud providers may also offer these services independently.

There are many possibilities when it comes to multi-cloud options and combinations. A company’s multi-cloud could include the use of multiple IaaS providers for different workloads and a public PaaS to test new cloud applications. Each company’s multi-cloud infrastructure will be different, depending on its needs and limitations.

Why use multi-cloud? 

  • Future-proof and flexible: Opting for multiple cloud services provides benefits beyond spreading the risk of failure across several vendors. By adopting a multi-cloud strategy, businesses can get everything they want, or might want tomorrow, without being limited to the services that one vendor provides. 
  • Speed: Global organizations can get services faster by choosing local public cloud vendors at all of their office locations. The closer the data center, the lower the latency. Using a local public cloud computing provider also decreases response time for higher priority tasks.
  • Compliance with governmental regulation: Some organizations may need to use multiple cloud storage providers to adhere to government regulations and data sovereignty laws that require certain types of data to reside within the company’s country.
  • Saving time, costs, and physical space: Most organizations that employ multi-cloud capabilities use the public cloud for IaaS, leveraging the strengths of various cloud service providers. The advantage of using public cloud for IaaS is that users can build a virtual data center in the cloud without needing a physical piece of hardware. This saves money and physical space, because the company does not have to invest in or store their own hardware. It also saves time, because the public cloud service provider manages, maintains, and updates the data center. 
  • Scalable: An enterprise can quickly scale to use more or fewer virtual data centers, depending on demand.

While a company could choose just one cloud service provider for their IaaS needs, not all  providers offer the same services, and some are just better than others at different things. Companies will need to choose cloud service vendors based on their particular needs. Multi-cloud adoption is increasing as cloud services grow in popularity.

Multi-cloud features 

Cloud computing requires a few components to function: back-end servers, a network, cloud-based delivery, and a front-end client like a mobile device or a computer. Cloud-based delivery allows users to use a front-end client to access software that is running on a remote server in the cloud or data that is likewise stored in the cloud. Cloud computing and cloud storage features vary from vendor to vendor. Cloud storage providers may offer automatic synching, version control, and the ability to view and edit files from any device. Other features of public cloud providers that vary wildly are security, tech support, and pricing. A pay as you go pricing model might work better for using the public cloud to accommodate spikes in demand, while another vendor’s pricing model may make more sense for something static like storage. 

Another benefit of a multi-cloud strategy is that it allows businesses to use one vendor who has a better IaaS offering and another that is better at SaaS. Or, they may use Vendor B as a back-up for Vendor A, decreasing the reliance on a single vendor.

Multi-cloud vs. hybrid cloud

While multi-cloud refers to the use of multiple public cloud service providers, hybrid cloud describes the use of public cloud service or services in conjunction with an on-premise private cloud. In a hybrid cloud environment, specific applications leverage both the private and public clouds to operate. In a multi-cloud environment, two or more public cloud vendors provide a variety of broader cloud-based services to a business.

Enterprises might choose to use a hybrid cloud because a private cloud is less expensive than using a public cloud but does not scale as easily. If a business needs the ability to handle spikes in demand, it might use a private cloud to run most of the workloads, accessing the public cloud only when necessary. Or, if a business offers services that collect customer data, they can host the services on a public cloud or clouds while keeping sensitive information safe on a private cloud.

Related Topics
Cloud Security
Cloud Computing Infrastructure
Cloud Cost Management
Hybrid Cloud
Public Cloud
Private Cloud
Private Cloud Solutions

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